11/26/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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The Accolade, Saudi Arabia’s first all-girl rock band

To evade their country’s rigid Islamic rules a group of young women jam in secret locations putting their music on the web. For the group’s leader, playing “is a challenge,” but their dream is to play before a live audience in Dubai to show “what we're capable of”.

Jeddah (AsiaNews/Agencies) – They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom. But the members of Saudi Arabia's first all-girl rock band, The Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.

The band's first single, ‘Pinocchio,’ has become an underground hit here, with hundreds of young Saudis downloading the song from the group's page on MySpace (pictured).

Now, the pioneering young foursome wants to record an album in secret places far from censorship.

All four members of The Accolade are women: Dina, the group’s guitarist and founder and her sister Dareen, bass player; Lamia, the group’s singer, and Amjad, the keyboardist.

The group’s name was inspired by one of Dina’s favourite paintings, ‘The Accolade,’ by the English pre-Raphaelite painter Edmund Blair Leighton. She studies art at King Abdulaziz University.

Playing “in Saudi [Arabia]”? “Yes, it's a challenge,” said Lamia. “Maybe we're crazy. But we wanted to do something different.”

In a country ruled by Sharia, Islamic Law, where rock music is seen as the devil’s music and women are not allowed to drive, it is hard to believe that the band has a future or could one day come out into the open.

Still with more than 60 per cent of Saudi Arabia's population under 25, many younger people are pressing for greater freedoms.

The four young women’s challenge is not meant as a provocation; they want to avoid the ire of Saudi police. For this reason their jam sessions are held in secret for fear of fundamentalists.

The band’s songs and their titles reflect their own self-censorship. Dina had thought for example of writing a song based on Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’ but decided that doing so would be taking controversy too far in a country where churches are not allowed, and where Muslims who convert to Christianity can be executed in accordance with the apostasy law.

All four band members want to continue playing but shy away from smoking, drinking and drugs, the music scene’s traditional vices.

The young women’s dream is to play real concerts, perhaps in Dubai; get on a stage and pass on their emotions to the audience.

“It's important for them to see what we're capable of,” Dina said.

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